The conflict between Pastor Greg Locke’s Global Vision Bible Church and its neighbors over church services and property expansion has escalated with a new lawsuit from Wilson County. The lawsuit is based on construction and stormwater zoning violations, and has been narrowly tailored to avoid a fight over protections for religious practice. The suit is significant because it marks an important moment in a lengthy conflict between Locke and his neighbors and because a government entity is going after Locke, who gained a reputation nationally for protesting government intervention.
According to the lawsuit, Wilson County inspectors have issued “stop work orders” for unpermitted building construction and property redevelopment over a four-year history, but the church has allegedly outright refused to comply. Despite this, Locke has vowed to continue having church services and will address the lawsuit during his next Sunday service.
Wilson County Attorney Mike Jennings has explained that the county specifically did not seek an injunction against Global Vision to avoid infringing on the religious liberties of the church. He stated that there’s quite a bit of protection under state and federal law, including the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the Tennessee Religious Restoration Act, which give Tennessee houses of worship broad latitude in zoning restrictions.
While the conflict between Locke’s church and its neighbors continues to intensify, the lawsuit filed by Wilson County highlights the importance of complying with zoning regulations to avoid legal action from government entities. It also underscores the need for a balanced approach that protects the religious liberties of houses of worship while ensuring compliance with local zoning laws.